[IRP] US Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) proposal
Tue Nov 15 23:05:51 EET 2011
As some of you are aware, a new copyright enforcement bill, SOPA (H.R.
3261) has been introduced in the U.S. that could greatly harm freedom
of expression, access to knowledge, and privacy globally.
For a summary of the bill and a list of concerns, see CDT's briefing
paper here: http://www.cdt.org/paper/sopa-summary
And blog post here: http://www.cdt.org/blogs/david-sohn/2710house-copyright-bill-casts-dangerously-broad-net
I've also copied a shorter summary in text below.
CDT is compiling all the blog posts and other writing that has been
done on SOPA, which we are passing onto policymakers in the U.S. You
can see the current list here: http://cdt.org/report/growing-chorus-opposition-stop-online-piracy-act
If you have also written about concerns on the potential impact of
SOPA on human rights, civil liberties, or economic innovation and
would like your voice added to the list we're sending to Congress,
please get in touch with me -- we would love to add them to the list.
In addition, if you want to know more about the proposed law, please
feel free to get in touch. CDT believes this bill could have impact
far beyond the U.S.'s borders. Two letters signed by a broad range of
civil society groups will be presented to Congress tomorrow, in time
for a hearing being held on the bill. You can read them here and here
Cynthia M. Wong
Director, Global Internet Freedom Project
Center for Democracy & Technology
CDT ? 1634 I Street NW ? Suite 1100 ? Washington, DC 20006
E cynthia at cdt.org P +1-202-407-8835 F +1-202-637-0968
Keeping the Internet Open, Innovative & Free!
Follow our work on Twitter @CenDemTech @cynthiamw
You can read the full text of the bill here.
Summary of relevant sections of SOPA:
Section 102 allows the government to impose new obligations on a range
of intermediaries to block access to sites that facilitate criminal
Section 102 defines new actions that may be brought by the U.S.
Attorney General against a ?foreign infringing site? or portion
thereof. ?Foreign infringing sites? are websites that commit or
?facilitate? commission of criminal copyright or trademark infringement.
The A.G. can bring an action either against the operator of such a
website, or in rem against the site itself or its domain name. The
court can then order the site to cease and desist further activity as
a foreign infringing site.
Once a court has issued an order, the A.G. can serve a copy on any of
several intermediaries, who must take action specified in the bill
within five days:
ISPs must comply with an open ended blocking order (whatever is
?technically feasible and reasonable?), including but not limited to
search engines must take measures designed to prevent the site (or
portion thereof) from being served as links;
payment networks (credit card companies, Paypal, etc.) must take
measures designed to prevent transactions between the site and U.S.
ad networks must take measures designed to stop serving ads on the
site or for the site, and to stop receiving payments from the site.
The A.G. can bring actions against these intermediaries to compel
Finally, the A.G. can bring an action to stop anyone who provides
tools to circumvent the intermediary measures SOPA requires.
Section 103 creates a private notice-and-cutoff system that allows
private parties to target a website?s financial resources if the
website does not monitor for infringement
Section 103 codifies a private notice-and-cutoff system that allows a
rightsholder to demand that payment and ad networks stop doing
business with any site that the rightsholder believes is ?dedicated to
theft of U.S. property.? Such websites include any sites that take
?deliberate actions to avoid confirming a high probability? of
If the intermediary does not cease business with the site, either
based on its own judgment or because it receives a counter-notice from
the site, the rightsholder can then initiate a private action similar
to the A.G. action above.
If an intermediary still does not comply, the court may issue an order
to show cause why the intermediary should not be ordered by the court
to comply and possibly to pay ?an appropriate monetary sanction.?
Our concerns are many, but the most serious include the following:
CDT remains opposed to the bill?s ISP blocking provisions. The DNS-
blocking required will be trivial to circumvent, potentially quite
overbroad in its impact on lawful expression, is inconsistent with key
cybersecurity initiatives, and sets a dangerous international
precedent for Internet blocking. SOPA goes beyond the DNS-filtering
proposed in the Protect IP Act, imposing a broader, open-ended
blocking obligation on ISPs.
The definition of the sites that the U.S. government can bring actions
against sweeps far too broadly. Even innocent sites may be found to
"facilitate" infringement and thus find themselves caught up in
enforcement actions. A video-sharing site with thousands of innocent
users sharing their own non-infringing videos, but a small minority
using the site to criminally infringe, could find its domain blocked
by in the U.S.
Similarly, the definition of sites that may be subject of private
actions is dramatically overbroad, in ways that could create de facto
monitoring obligations for websites. Any rightsholder could cut off
the financial lifeblood of user-generated content sites unless those
sites actively monitor and police user activity to the rightsholder?s
The private action provision risks creating unprecedented incentives
for user-driven sites to implement elaborate user-monitoring systems
to "confirm" whether individual users are infringing. These and other
sites have flourished under current protections from intermediary
liability in U.S. law, which expressly reject a general obligation to
actively track and police user behavior. Creating incentives to
perform such burdensome monitoring (or risk losing financial means of
support) would be hugely damaging to free expression and user privacy.
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